The kind and generous Hallie Durand is offering a signed copy of CATCH THAT COOKIE for one lucky Alphabet Soup reader! All you have to do to enter this giveaway is to leave a comment at yesterday’s post no later than midnight (EST) Thursday, December 18, 2014.
If you already commented yesterday you are automatically entered in the giveaway. The book will be signed by BOTH Hallie and illustrator David Small. What a special treasure!
Stories about runaway food — whether pancakes, bannocks, rice cakes, latkes, tortillas or gingerbread men — have long delighted children of all ages. Though Queen Elizabeth I is credited with the first man-shaped gingerbread cookie, portraying the Gingerbread Boy as a story hero is a uniquely American invention. The cheeky, spicy guy first appeared in print in an 1875 issue of St. Nicholas Magazine, and he’s been running and taunting readers ever since.
In the charmingly clever interactive mystery Catch that Cookie (2014), which was inspired by author Hallie Durand’s son, young Marshall doesn’t believe gingerbread men can walk or run. Sure, he’s heard all the stories his teacher Mrs. Gray has shared with the class, but Marshall doesn’t buy any of it. Cookies are for eating, period.
When it’s time for them to make their own gingerbread boys, Marshall enjoys mixing the dough (Mrs. Gray tells him he “rocked” it), and decorating his little man with “good stuff”: six raisins for eyes and a special silver-ball belt. But later when Mrs. Gray unlocks the oven to retrieve the baked cookies, they’re gone!
What do you get when you combine one part Gingerbread Boy with one part “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”?
A delightful recipe for a joyous, rollickingly suspenseful foodie-licious story, of course!
Cleverly riffing on Clement Clarke Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” Oregon-based author Stephanie Shaw has cooked up an original adventure featuring our favorite iconic Christmas cookie, who narrowly escapes becoming Santa’s midnight snack.
‘Twas the night before Christmas,
And there on a plate,
Was a Gingerbread Boy
Awaiting his fate.
The children had baked him
And dressed him with care,
Using currants for eyes
and icing for hair.
They knew that St. Nick,
With his overstuffed pack,
Would be sorely in need
Of a fine midnight snack.
As the Gingerbread Boy nervously awaits his not-so-sweet fate, two rambunctious puppies bound into the room and begin to pounce, paw, and tear the holiday decorations apart. The plucky Gingerbread Boy knows he must do something to save Christmas, so he quickly distracts those frisky pups by dancing and spinning atop a big red ornament. Employing all his best moves, he’s able to get them to settle down until Santa arrives. After he helps Santa straighten things up, he’s extremely relieved when instead of being eaten, a highly impressed St. Nick asks him to be Night Watchman at his North Pole toy shop.
Stephanie’s bouncy rhyming text scans beautifully and will keep kids rooting for this adorably smart cookie, who ultimately gets his one Christmas wish. The narrative gambols right along and her spritely rhymes and turns of phrase never lapse into predictability.
‘Come Rascal! Come, Rowdy!’
He called them by name.
‘I’ll show you a much better
Christmas Eve game.’
‘A biscuit,’ they barked
With howling dog joy,
‘And one that can talk.
It’s a Gingerbread boy!’
And what he did next
Made those naughty pups stop.
‘Look at me!’ Cookie cried.
‘I can spin like a top!’
Bruno Robert’s bold, action-packed illustrations effectively capture all the fun and frolic of this clamorous caper. Close-ups of the Gingerbread Boy’s worried facial expressions and his overall body language elicit reader empathy, while the perky, playful pups are suitably frenetic but quite lovable. Kids will enjoy the focus on the cookie’s point of view, and appreciate that such a small little guy was able to put aside his big fears without hesitation to save the day.
When the work was all done
Cookie climbed on the dish.
He looked to the stars
And made one Christmas wish.
Then he heard Santa say . . .
A Cookie for Santa has received glowing reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal and Kirkus, and has earned a Preferred Choice Award from Creative Child Magazine. It begs to be read aloud in the classroom or at family Christmas gatherings. What a wonderful addition to the holiday book shelf, especially for those who like their classic ingredients served up with a refreshing twist! Who could resist this tasty tale, a lovingly baked gem sure to be welcomed in all the best (and politically correct) cookie circles. 🙂
Though I can’t personally guarantee that fewer gingerbread boys will be consumed as a result, I’m pretty confident kids of all ages will clamor for repeated readings. 😀
* * *
C – O – O – K – I – E – S ! ! !
I asked Stephanie to share her favorite Gingerbread Cookie recipe, and she pointed me to this gluten-free one using Pamela’s Bread Mix. Seems more and more people are going gluten-free these days and this recipe sounds like it’s definitely worth a try. Thanks, Stephanie!
3-1/2 cups Pamela’s Bread Mix
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup molasses
12 tablespoons butter or margarine, chilled
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons milk
Preheat oven to 350°. Use HEAVY DUTY STAND MIXER and paddle. In mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Add butter and mix well. Add molasses and milk, mix to combine thoroughly.
Divide dough and roll to 1/4 inch between two layers of parchment paper. Freeze for 15 minutes. Remove top sheet of each and cut out cookies and remove excess dough. Bake on parchment on cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes until edges begin to brown for soft cookies.
For crispy cookies, roll thinner to 1/8th inch and bake for 14 to18 minutes. Scraps can be rolled and cookies cut out again.
A COOKIE FOR SANTA written by Stephanie Shaw illustrated by Bruno Robert published by Sleeping Bear Press, 2014 Picture Book for ages 4-8, 32 pp. Cool themes: holidays, Christmas, baking, food, Santa Claus, animals, rhyming fiction
Paul Hankins is hosting today’s Roundup at These 4 Corners. Scamper over and check out the full menu of poetic treats being served up in the blogosphere this week. Enjoy your weekend, a good time to make Gingerbread Boy Cookies. 🙂
* * *
This post is also being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food related posts. Put on your best bibs and come join the fun!
No Cookie Party would be complete without the most famous Christmas cookie of them all. I would have featured the Gingerbread Man earlier, but I’ll be danged if I didn’t have the hardest time catching up with the little rascal! I had to promise to bake him a gingerbread girlfriend before he’d agree to spend a little time with us.
You know, I’m surprised the G Man can still walk, let alone run. He’s been around such a long time. In the 11th century, the Crusaders brought ginger to Europe from the Middle East. Its medicinal powers were well known even then, and when the spice was used in bread it acted as a preservative.
The first gingerbread was actually a baked block of honey, breadcrumbs, ginger, and other spices. It was elaborately decorated and given away as gifts. Beautifully carved wooden molds (some pretty large), were pressed onto the gingerbread in the designs of pigs, hearts, men, rabbits, and fleur-de-lis. They would then be painted with saffron or cinnamon, or even gilded.
By the mid 16th century, treacle (molasses) replaced honey, and flour replaced breadcrumbs. Soon eggs and butter were added, giving the gingerbread more of a cake-like texture. Queen Elizabeth I is credited with the first actual man-shaped cookie, since she liked to give important visitors gingerbread likenesses of themselves. Pretty clever, I’d say.
Her Royal Gingerness
Then, once Grimm’s tale of Hansel and Gretel came on the scene, German bakers went beserk with elaborate gingerbread houses, castles, manger scenes, edible greeting cards and tree ornaments. Gingerbread became recognized as a profession, and as late as the 17th century, only professionals were allowed to bake it in France and Germany. Restrictions were lifted during Christmas and Easter, though, and Nuremberg became the "Gingerbread Capital of the World."
In this country, gingerbread cookies were first known as "cakes," and were the most loved cookie of early American children. It was probably popular because it was plentiful and cheap, easy to make, and hard to ruin, whether baked in a brick oven or a cook stove. Today, you can choose from a multitude of cookie cutters to fashion the gingerbread men, women, children, and animals of your dreams. In our house, we make gingerbread teddies (big surprise).
The Gingerbread Man is a cumulative story which belongs to the "Fleeing Pancake" group of folktales. Apparently, the idea of food that likes to run away before being eaten is pretty widespread and nobody knows who started the whole thing. The Irish have 33 versions of the tale, and Scandinavia, Germany, Russia, Holland, and even Slovenia have their own versions.
Earliest print versions date from 19th century Germany and Norway, featuring fat pancakes on the run. In the U.S., the story first appeared in St. Nicholas Magazine (1875). A childless woman creates a gingerbread boy who jumps out of the oven and runs away, progressively taunting everyone he meets with the phrase, "I’ve run away from a little old woman, and a little old man, and I can run away from you, I can."
G Man goes global
I must say I admire the G Man’s bravado and superhuman ability to run like an Olympian even though he’s never run anywhere before and probably doesn’t even know where he’s going. I don’t blame him for running away from the disturbed woman who baked something with a human likeness so she and her husband could eat it.
But did he have to brag the whole time? And taunt and tease? You have to admit he’s adorable in some ways. Strangely enough, I’ve never really felt sorry for him at the end. Have you?
And so now, part of American holiday tradition is to bake these cute rapscallions, give them currant eyes, buttons and mouths, even clothe them with frosting, just so we can turn against them. I struggle with this inherent guilt every year. My secret is that I don’t bond with my gingerbread men. I bake them, but I don’t name them. I never engage them in meaningful dialogue. I don’t gaze at them lovingly or admire their cuteness. And I always bite their heads off first.
GINGERBREAD MEN COOKIES (makes 24 cookies)
2-1/4 cups all purpose flour 1/2 cup sugar 1/2 cup shortening 1/2 cup light molasses 1 egg 1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon 1 tsp double-acting baking powder 1 tsp ground ginger 1 tsp ground cloves 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg 1/2 tsp baking soda 1/2 tsp salt dried currants
1. Into large bowl measure all ingredients except currants. With mixer at medium speed, beat ingredients until well mixed. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.
2. On lightly floured surface, with floured rolling pin, roll chilled dough 1/8 inch thick. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
3. With 5-inch long cutter, cut out men. Reroll trimmings and cut more cookies. With pancake turner, place 1/2 inch apart on cookie sheets.
4. On each cut out, place currants to represent buttons, eyes and mouth.
5.Bake 8 minutes or until browned, then, with pancake turner, remove cookies to racks.
(from The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook, Hearst Books, 1980)
Please join us at the Cookie Party! Post your favorite recipe, then leave the link in the comments, or email your recipe to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot com). Don’t forget you can always access all the recipes by clicking on the Cookie Party link in my sidebar.